Police arrest suspect in Illinois in 32-year old murder of Tacoma girl
May 11, 2018
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(EUREKA, ILL.) – Once again the long arm of the law has reached across a vast expanse of time and space to make an arrest in a very old Pacific Northwest murder case.
WHOI-TV, the ABC television network affiliate in Peoria reports that a 60-year old local man, identified as Robert D. Washburn of Eureka, Illinois was arrested in Eureka by Illinois State Police and is being held in the Woodford County Jail on a murder warrant from Washington State.
Eureka is a city of 5300 people in Woodford County, Illinois. It’s located 18 miles from Peoria and is considered part of the Peoria, Illinois Metro area.
Washburn was arrested as a suspect in the murder of 13-year old Jennifer Bastian who disappeared on Aug. 4, 1986, after she left her north Tacoma home to go on a bike ride.
Jennifer left her house around 2:30 pm on August 4, 1986, leaving a note for her parents saying she’d be back home by 6:30 pm that night. Police say she rode her bike to the popular Point Defiance park and vanished there.
There was an intense search of the park and three weeks later her body was found in some woods in the 5-mile-drive area of the park.
Police in Washington plan to extradite Washburn back to Pierce County for possible prosecution in the case.
The TV station report quoted Illinois State Police Lt. Matthew Boerwinkle as saying his agency assisted Tacoma Police Department in the arrest of Washburn.
WHOI-TV talked with neighbors who said Washburn lived at the Woodridge Apartments in Eureka and that, “LexisNexis records shared by KING-TV in Seattle also show Washburn once lived nine blocks away from the Bastian home in Washington state.”
The TV station also talked with neighbors at the Woodridge Apartments who said they were shocked by the news. One woman said her 11-year old daughter “would go over to Wasburn's apartment all the time.” Another neighbor, a man said Washburn was nice and friendly.
But another neighbor, Danielle Cecil said Washburn “had some odd behaviors,” adding that Washburn never wanted to talk about his past.
The arrest of Washburn comes two years after Tacoma Police released two composite sketches of the two different men believed to have sexually assaulted and killed Michella Welch, 12, and Jennifer Bastian, 13, in two North End Tacoma parks.
Detectives at one time believed the same man was responsible for both murders but in April of 2016 they acknowledged that they no longer believed one man was responsible for both murders.
The sketches police released to the public were created by Parabon NanoLabs Inc., a company in Virginia that specializes in DNA renderings of criminal suspects. Parabon analyzed DNA samples police had given the company and identified genetic markers such as eye and hair color and then employed a process called phenotyping to predict what the men might have looked like in a general sense, not a detailed portrait.
Police say they ran DNA profiles from both killers through a national database of felons but they did not find a match with any of the approximately 11 million DNA profiles in the database.
The News Tribune in Tacoma reported in 2016 that it was understandable why detectives for so long believed the girls’ killings were linked because, “Both were blond and petite. Both were killed in North End parks. Police said there were similarities at the crime scenes. Both were killed within a five-month period. Both were snatched during broad daylight.”